From our growing family to yours, we wish you a merry solstice and a joyous Christmas!
Christmastime in Alaska is special. Even though we may be grumbling about the mere inches of snow we have on the ground this year, we usually don’t face the problem of “It just doesn’t feel like Christmas; it’s too warm and green!” This morning we awoke to trees frosted over, reaching icy fingers high into the pale blue sky. The air is clean and refreshing, as always, and the sun peaks through the distant clouds on the horizon for only an hour or two some days, illuminating the sparkles that coat nature.
I truly love this time of year. The older I get, the less I need the festivities and traditions and glitz, and the more I relish the family time and the chance to quietly reflect on my blessings. This year we have truly been blessed. We live in a wonderful community in the middle of awe-inspiring scenery. My husband finished engineering school, and I am SO proud of him and all his hard work. Our twins are growing (and pushing my belly out fast) and we get more and more excited every day to have them in our arms when the time comes.
Also, my first traditionally published book was released last week! Treasures of a Childlike Heart is heartwarming and sure to bring a few chuckles and smiles. I joyfully wrote of my simple childhood days in the country and found a creative way to honor the legacy of my wonderful mom, who is greatly missed. If this appeals to you and you need a good book for cozy winter evenings, visit my book page for more info on how to order a copy!
As I’ve been writing this post, I’ve watched the shimmery treetops go from dazzling white to golden to pink, and now the light only remains on the clouds and not on the trees or land. The sun has just set, and we in Anchorage are in the middle of several days of five and a half hours between sunrise to sunset each day. Most Alaskans do not actually live in places that experience days, weeks, or months of the sun not rising. Only villages above the Arctic Circle get that, and the vast majority of the state lives below that latitude.
What I’ve discovered about the “darkness” of winter in Alaska is that it is not as dark as outsiders think. I recognize that I live in the outskirts of a city with much more light than a really rural area, but here’s the amazing thing: the snow makes mornings and evenings so much lighter, even when the sun is down. I was reminded of this when my husband and I visited family in Oregon last year. After we were picked up from the airport, we rode along some country roads, and I couldn’t believe how truly dark my surroundings were! It was as if the boggy green fields were quicksand for light rays. No soft snow covered the trees, roofs, or land; the glowing lights of houses and cars had nothing to reflect on. But in Alaska the light from homes, the moon, or any other source bounces off anything covered with snow. Plus, many families put white or colored lights on the outsides of their homes (not just for Christmas), so I find evenings to actually be rather cheery.
From our growing family to yours, we wish you a merry solstice and a joyous Christmas!
Fall in Alaska is such an unpredictable time. Local businesses hold contests with prizes for those who guess correctly when and how much the first snowfall will be. It's the "busy season" for all the automotive shops as they speedily change tires over from summer tires to studded or special cold-weather ice-gripping tires.
One day Alaska can look like this:
. . . and the next day like this:
My aunt and uncle's sweet dog who is no longer with us was my constant companion on walks and hikes several years ago. She absolutely loved snow, and the first-snowfall picture above was taken on September 29th, three years ago, and our first snowfall this year was September 29th!
Here are a couple more pictures from that snow three years ago that perfectly capture the beauty of a fall snow.
The amazing thing is that a week later, this is what I saw! Doesn't look like winter to me!
I love the surprising weather of fall. Rich colors give way to clean white, and the winds pick up to finish decluttering the tree branches.
Fall snow is fleeting, but as October comes around, things start to really freeze up and we know that real winter is just around the corner.
I'll end with a few photos from this year's first snowfall, less than a week ago. When the temperature is so warm (not much under freezing), the snow is fluffy and wet and sticks to everything! It's the perfect snow to make snowmen with, which is something we Alaskans usually don't get the right snow for.
Does where you live ever get snow in the fall?
Fall equinox is quickly approaching and signaling another big shift for life in the Last Frontier. Some Alaskans mourn this day, as it signifies progressively more hours of darkness than daylight, but for everyone, equinox is at least a time of letting go.
We’ve enjoyed a gorgeous, sunny summer and have explored in the midnight sun to our hearts’ content. Now, September 23 is just around the corner, and whether we like it or not, Alaskans must embrace the coming shorter days.
I, however, find myself giddy this time of year. A fall centerpiece adorns our dining table, and I’ve started lighting candles every evening. The rain has been more here than gone the last few weeks, but I am absolutely okay with that. Every time I look out our windows, I see leaves fluttering down from the brilliant yellow birches, and I smile. I hung strings of lights around our living room windows and around the pillars outside our front door. Things are getting cozy around here.
When we awoke to clear, crisp weather the other day, I knew just where I wanted to go to get outside and enjoy the beauty. We headed an hour north of Anchorage to the Knik River Public Use Area (seen in the pictures above and below) and parked on the rocky beach for a stroll along the water. I love seeing the silty river subtly rush downstream against a backdrop of dramatic mountains, and this time of year, the foliage is brilliant. We did get stuck deep in mud once near one of the shallow sloughs, but thankfully we made it out with our boots!
This area is a favorite for people to bring four-wheelers and big groups of people for bonfires on the beach, but thankfully we caught it at a quiet time for most of our walk. The fresh snow on the tops of the mountains and the nip in the air reminded me that winter is on its way, but when the sun came out we still had to take off our jackets.
Fall in Alaska is short, but beauty is everywhere. I think the brevity of the season and the significance it has as a transition between frenzied Alaskan summertime and quiet, restful winter makes fall special.
What makes fall meaningful to you?
What is it about a sunset that stirs the human spirit? Do you feel compelled to stop what you’re doing, maybe whip out your camera or phone, and stare in awe when you see clouds dripping vivid hues that seem to settle in the crevices of your gray matter? Those fading moments of twilight signal rest, to me. They remind me of the cycles of life. A new day is coming, but first, it’s time to wind down. Release what I’m gripping tightly. Breathe deeply. Close my eyes.
In Alaska, sunsets (and sunrises) play a significant role in our lives. The number of daylight hours we get fluctuates wildly throughout the year, and that impacts our energy levels and activities. We’re currently in that wonderful, hopeful stage of spring after short days and long, cold nights. The sun is up more than it’s down, and dusk lingers delightfully each evening. With daylight savings time and the fact that we’re physically situated in a farther-west time zone than what we actually set our clocks to, our “solar noon” is at two in the afternoon. That means the sun is up almost from the time I get up to the time I go to bed.
A common misconception is that all Alaskans experience many days of no sunlight in the winter and many days of twenty-four-hour sun in the summer. While that’s true above the Arctic Circle, where only a tiny fraction of the state’s population lives, the most extreme we get in Anchorage, where half the state lives, is five and a half hours of daylight in winter and four and a half hours of darkness in summer. That summer darkness, though, isn’t all that dark. Since we're so far north, the sun's path is quite angled, so when it hides for those few hours of "night," it's only dipping just below the horizon. Until Earth’s rotation reveals the sun again, most of those hours between sunset and sunrise are more like a drawn-out twilight.
For now, we seem to all be feeling that burst of spring energy. The evenings are often warm enough to picnic on the porch, while the sun bathes trees, mountains, and the inlet far below in golden light. The last of the snow on the mountains offers us the incredible sight of alpenglow on clear days. I’m staying motivated to get work done long after dinner, and I’m itching to start camping and fishing.
This is certainly the season of hope and reawakening! Green things are cautiously emerging on trees and out of the ground. Brown all around is giving way to color. The birds are singing more cheerfully. Even the bears are emerging from their winter beds, as proven by the multiples piles of bear excrement we found on our dirt road two days ago! Like it or not, ’tis the season to carry bear spray or a gun!
Do you have any questions about the seasonal changes of daylight in Alaska?
The palette of an Alaskan winter is difficult to capture. This land is verdant and bright in the summer and rich and vibrant in the fall, but I would dare say the colors are most magnificent in the coldest months. An innocent outsider may say, “But isn’t Alaska mostly white in the winter?” Ah, but white is only the blank canvas for many brilliant brushstrokes of splendor.
From my kitchen windows I see a white yard, brown trees and, far below, a glassy sea lined by stately mountains. These objects contain not much color themselves but serve as a backdrop for spectacular displays. I have seen the glittering gold of a sunrise encapsulated in ice fog, each drop of sun slowly floating to earth like a frozen feather. Flecks of pink have caught my eye as the fading sun reflected on countless crystals scattered in the lawn. I’ve seen sunsets blazing with shades of fire. Recently I marveled as red, orange, and yellow gave way to green, turquoise, and the deep blue of the night sky. It was as if a rainbow had been turned upside down and spread all along the horizon.
Those displays of vibrant color are incredible, but what I find most special are the subdued pastels of winter in Alaska. When a new covering of snow comes down and everything is clean and white, gentle color fills the sky, the air, and my soul. Soft blue skies and simple pink sunsets stand in contrast to the fair white blanket resting on the earth. Somehow I find such comfort in the subtlety of those soft colors. I feel like I can almost breathe them in along with the cold, clean Alaskan air.
I'm a mom of twins, published author, editor, amateur photographer, and nature enthusiast with an unlimited supply of curiosity. Come discover the little wonders I find during my everyday life in Alaska.
Looking for a specific Alaskan place or thing? Check out the categories below!